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At long last, regulations will reflect the diversity of the UK's demographic


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In the past, the UK's beauty community has seen a significant gap in expertise when it comes to styling Afro and textured hair. Now, hairdressers nationwide will be required to learn how to style hair of all types and demographics.

The National Occupational Standards (NOS), said they will now “meet the needs of the UK’s diverse community in one standard”. The move comes with a push from the British Beauty Council, along with the Hair & Beauty Industry Authority (Habia). The collaborative task force was put together to revise and reassess the current practice standards of the industry.

A study by Habia, conducted in 2017, found that there are a staggering 35,000 plus beauty salons in the UK, but only 302 of those are Afro-Carribean salons. In the past, Black women have had to travel significant distances to reach salons that understand how to style their hair.

The new standards will span across the beauty industry, covering nails, aesthetics, wellbeing, and holistic therapies. The inclusivity of beauty practices will result in training given to beauty professionals across the country.

“Our aim is to amplify and celebrate the voices of all the communities the industry serves to ensure each and every one of us feels seen, heard, valued and excited to engage with the beauty industry,” says Helena Grzesk, chief operating officer at the British Beauty Council.

This update to hairdressing regulations has been a long time in the making. Currently, the UK Black hair industry is estimated to be worth £88 million. According to The Times, Black women spend six times more on hair maintenance and care than white women do. The market, however, continues to be saturated with products catering to the latter demographic.

Many have said they are hesitant to embrace this move, but still welcome it as progress. Michelle Jenmi, the founder of an online store for Afro hair producers, Ataji Hair Care, says, “I am rather torn in my opinion of this. On one hand, it would be amazing for me to walk into any hairdresser and know there is someone that is qualified to handle my hair. But on the other side of the coin, if this skill is forced onto an individual, will they necessarily put the proper attention into doing my hair, or will they develop their skill properly if it is something they do not really desire to do?”

Habiba Katsha, a writer based in east London, shares similar apprehension, but appreciates the inclusivity of the revised standards.

“I think UK hairdressers learning to style and cut Afro hair is a step in the right direction but I'm still quite skeptical,” she tells BURO. 

“Afro hair is complex and I think there would also be so much unlearning for UK hairdressers to do to unlearn unconscious bias towards Black hair. However, I think this move could benefit Black women in predominantly white spaces and the entertainment industry,” she says.

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